Even if Cristiano Ronaldo was fouled, he did have another embarrassing moment of diving instead of playing through the tackle. While he has a manager at Real Madrid who hasn’t been making the wisest and boldest of decisions when it comes to starting lineups, you expect a lot more from a player who considers himself to be the best in the world.
Real Madrid lost because of defensive weakness, which isn’t new, even by going rather defensive from the start. Italian managers, the old-school kind like Ancelotti is, try to win matches only after 70 minutes. It might work against other Italian teams like Juventus, a matchup in which Real Madrid have the upper hand in terms of talent, but using such a limited lineup that pretty much holds no creativity in the midfield against Barcelona is almost like giving up on winning right from the start.
The Madrid press tried to make it look like Real Madrid were brave in their approach through the final minutes as Jese and Karim Benzema took the field. Benzema rattled the crossbar with what might have been one of the goals of the season. Jese actually scored. Ronaldo? He mostly complained.
It’s not that he did much before the yellow card that completely took him out of the match. He had a single one on one opportunity with the fantastic Victor Valdes which he blew by shooting straight at the goalkeeper, coming up with another fine save. That was pretty much it. Undecided between playing in the middle or on the left, Barcelona had no problem beating him in the air (mostly Gerard Pique) or on the ground.
Did Javier Mascherano foul him before the second Barcelona goal? Probably. It might not have been the most aggressive of touches, but it was still a strong enough lean to take Ronaldo out of his stride. And still, Ronaldo keeps tripping himself in the public opinion court by diving when he doesn’t need to. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t win penalty kicks that he thinks he deserves to. Losing his head after that moment certainly didn’t help Real Madrid.
The most glaring failure of the match was Gareth Bale. Bale is a fantastic physical talent, but he’s not the most versatile of players. For some reason, Carlo Ancelotti is trying too hard to change him into something he’s not. A right winger? A false nine? A striker? All these things aren’t what Bale excels at, or even knows how to do. It takes a preseason to make these things work, and Bale skipped that part by acting like a spoiled child. In the Clasico, it’s not time to try and make irresponsible gambles like this.
And Ancelotti will be remembered in this match for the “bold” use of Sergio Ramos in the midfield. Barcelona had no problem overcoming that little bit of tactical genius by simply playing wider and moving Messi to the right. Ramos gave no advantage to Real Madrid, and instead just highlighted their defensive approach early in the match.
Real Madrid are only six points behind. There’s still time to rectify and hope that Barcelona mess up. But Ancelotti decided to be bold and creative only after he lost the match, and his best player’s will to win on the way.